JUNE 24, 1996
RENAULT's decision to quit F1 is not indicative of an impending engine crisis in Grand Prix racing - as some of the more sensationalist elements in the European press have suggested. In fact, the decision is likely to lead to new manufacturers in F1.
With Renault out of the way and two top teams on the market there are several car companies which might move into the sport.
Of the biggest car producers in the world only Ford is active in F1. General Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen and Nissan are not involved although they keep a close eye on what is happening.
General Motors came very close to committing itself to F1 in 1988 with a V12 engine for which Ilmor carried out a design study. The program was turned down for economic reasons. In recent months, however, there have been hints that GM might be interested in F1 once again: Opel has appointed ex-BMW F1 boss Peter Flohr as its motor sport chief and GM's Pontiac brand - which builds and will be releasing a new "Grand Prix" model - has been showing some interest in F1, notably as a circuit sponsor in Montreal. At the same time Tom Walkinshaw Racing - which has strong GM connections (through Saab and Holden) - is designing a V10 F1 engine.
Toyota has always been very wary of F1, although the TOMS company - an unofficial Toyota offshoot - carried out an F1 design study with John Barnard in 1992. The plan then was to use a Brian Hart engine in the first year of the program and a Toyota V10 in the second. TOMS sources insist that it will enter F1 when the time is right. Toyota, incidentally, has strong commercial links with Yamaha.
Volkswagen offshoot Audi is headed by Ferdinand Piech, a great racing fan, and the company admitted in 1992 that it had talks with McLaren. It has also been linked to Williams.
The next group of car producers is heavily involved in F1 with Fiat (Ferrari), Peugeot (Jordan), Honda (with Ligier through Mugen), Renault (Williams & Benetton) and Mercedes (McLaren). Only Chrysler, Mitsubishi and BMW are not currently represented.
Chrysler quit F1 in 1993 after McLaren dumped it in favor of Peugeot. It is known to be seriously considering a return as it is expanding fast around the world and F1 would be a useful marketing tool.
Mitsubishi funded a V12 design study in 1990, carried out by the HKS tuning firm. The engine was built and tested in an F3000 car in Japan in 1992. It has not been heard of since and HKS is now concentrating on Formula 3 engines for Mitsubishi.
BMW normally has an up-to-date F1 engine design in Munich. The management recently decided, however, not to enter F1 until at least the year 2000.
Of the other car companies Porsche designed and built a V10 F1 engine in 1994 and this ran on the test beds at the company's research center at Weissach in Germany. The company wants a customer to pay for their engine.
Isuzu built a V12 engine in 1991 and this was run at Silverstone in a Lotus F1 car. It has not been heard of since.
The TWR engine currently being designed is believed to have been offered to Swedish car manufacturer Volvo, the Swedes apparently keen to rid the company of its image of building rather dull cars.
In addition to all of these, there are a couple of Korean firms which are believed to be looking closely at F1. Samsung - a bigger company than Volkswagen - is launching its first cars in 1998 and has big plans internationally and Daewoo - which is a bigger company than Renault - plans to quadruple its annual output by the year 2000 and had talks with Brian Hart last year.
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